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Startup and a more competitive India

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New Delhi: The growth of several countries in the past have been driven by a need for creating better solutions for existing problems by startup companies. This, along with secure property rights is major differences between organized and unorganized societies.

Innovative enterprise the world over has made nations economically better off and people more prosperous. The most prominent examples that come to mind are those of Germany, Israel and the US.

The East Asian miracle was also based on creating local industries that could assemble parts more productively and at a cost advantage as compared to western countries that lead to their export competitiveness.

Japan’s major companies like Toshiba, Hitachi, and Toyota were once small enterprises. Even countries like China have greatly benefitted from the policies envisaged in the late 1970s in making people more productive and prosperous as mentioned by Deng Xiaoping in 1984 when he focused on using the forces of production for economic development – thus ending the decades-old conception of how society ought to be organised.

The primary point being driven home in all this is that well-designed policies as such greatly assist in making a productive people more prosperous. In a way, the 3Ps of policies, people and productivity lie at the core of becoming a prosperous nation.

India’s earlier economic development model has rarely focused on developing entrepreneurs as a strategic resource for national development.

The colonial hangover in the past has meant that India’s initial years post independence went deeply mistrusting private entrepreneurs and enterprises in doing social good. However, this has resulted in what many people call a “mixed up” economy rather than a mixed economy. This is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the Startup India launch mentioned the role of government to stop over-regulating and letting the people themselves resolve the issues they face.

If one comes to think of it, the jobs that India requires over the next decade – with a million people entering the workforce every month – cannot be provided fully by the formal sector multinationals and government’s public sector enterprises alone. In a way, this presents a sizeable opportunity for India to capitalise on its demographic dividend. However if India continues with is older policies, it may very well end up curtailing private sector development as well as entrepreneurship.

Now, the government rightly recognises the role of entrepreneurs as job creators and capable of absorbing the surging workforce in the decade ahead. The startup plan which has been unveiled before the people has many positives for unleashing the latent ‘Chi’ or the creative force of the Indian economy.

These include doing away with certifications, simplification for opening up a start-up and helping start-ups protect their intellectual property with procedural help as well as financial assistance.

Apart from this, other provisions include creating a fund of funds with a corpus of Rs.10,000 crore (almost $1.5 billion) that has been hailed and scorned at in equal measure due the to public funds being used as venture capital.

Other major announcements deal with the removal of tax for an initial period of three years and further exemption of capital gains tax for incubators investing in startups. Apart from these, the other major announcements deal with setting up of seven research parks and promotion of entrepreneurship in biotechnology.

Taken together, these are bound to help develop a culture of entrepreneurship. However, a significant point is looking at structural issues that hinder entrepreneurship in the Indian context.

The government has done well to draw the attention of youth for pursuing their dream of entrepreneurship, but deeper societal issues must also be addressed for optimal outcomes. Over the next 10 years, India’s aim should be to make the ecosystem of enabling entrepreneurship more robust and making it a more viable career option for individuals wanting to take the plunge. How this will play out will determine India’s ability to leverage its human resources effectively for economic growth and competitiveness.(Amit Kapoor)(IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)